A local petition that simply asks our schools to form committees to discuss national recommendations is getting signatures from residents across NE Ohio, and Stow community members are encouraged to sign and share the petition.
The National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Sleep Foundation have recommended later school start times for teens, and schools around the nation have responded. In NE Ohio professionals and parents are asking our schools to join the conversation.
It was discovered in the 90s that during puberty adolescents experience a 90-minute later shift in circadian rhythm. This temporary change in when teens release their melatonin (10:30 pm rather than 9pm like the rest of us) makes it hard for them to fall asleep early enough to accommodate an early wake time. In the United States 91.8% of teens with school start times before 8:30am are chronically sleep deprived. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with obesity, changes in insulin resistance, compromised immune functioning, more aggressive forms of breast cancer (including research published by Case Western Reserve University’s Cheryl Thompson this August), cognitive deficits, increased impulsivity, substance abuse, increase sports injuries (teens with one hour more sleep than their peers experience 68% fewer sports injuries according to a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics), auto accidents, and more.
Hundreds of schools have adopted later start times due to the research, and the benefits have included: improved grades, decreased absences, fewer school nurse and counselor visits, improved behavior, improved standardized test scores, and in Fayette County KY a measured 24.3% decrease in auto accidents compared to the rest of the state after they moved from 7:30am start times to 8:30 am (Danner and Phillips, 2008).
In Portage County counseling agencies and community leaders started asking schools to heed the research in 2011. In the spring of 2012 Rootstown schools created a committee to explore the clinical data, and a recommendation to adjust start times for the 2013/2014 school year is currently on the table.
The recently formed petition was initially intended for the rest of the Portage County schools, however support quickly grew outside of the county - particularly among professionals familiar with the research. The petition therefore has been expanded to encompass all of NE Ohio, and the signatures will be shared with all schools in the area.
Patch readers can view the petition, supporting data, and signatures so far without signing anything. On the petition page a summary of the data and links for further information are provided, and we encourage readers to be fully informed before deciding whether to sign the petition. The most common reaction we hear is surprise when people realize the amount of data available – because unfortunately most of the information has been hidden away in dry scholarly journals or government reports.
If you do sign the petition, please share it on Facebook, LinkedIn or via email. There are no age or residency requirements - this isn't a petition for legislation, rather a request for our schools to look further at the data. There is also a contact link at the petition site to ask for more information.
You can reach the petition through the link below, or you can access it via SignOn.org and search 'Northeast Ohio'.